Global Health Facilities Database: a concrete product to build on!
New Global Good for WHO: work in progress
On 10th March, the World Health Organization launched the Global Health Facilities Database. An extremely useful repository underpinned by geospatial identification technology, this global public good responds to structural needs to better plan, manage and organize healthcare.
A world-class innovative product run by WHO’s Division of Data, Analytics and Delivery for Impact, it reflects this team’s commitment to delivering rigorous, science-based state of the art operational support to evidence-based decisions in health.
In addition, it echoes concerns springing from the COVID-19 pandemic that rocked the world as of 2020 and led to shifting the perspective of health stewards to more flexible functional design in health facilities, and an increased adaptability to tackle exponential patients’ influx resulting from severe epidemic episodes.
The Global Health Facilities Database will allow to respond to those crucial questions that matter for all health stakeholders:
Where are facilities located? What are their capacities? How fast can they turn around their functional design? How adaptable and flexible is their facility master plan? How easy is it to redeploy ICU beds, to cordon off wards and perhaps redeploy activities to other health facilities to avoid disruption in essential services?
A work in progress, the database roll-out was undoubtedly influenced by the unprecedented COVID-19 global crisis. According to WHO:
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored urgent gaps in our knowledge of where health facilities are located.
By serving as a standardized, open and central repository of health facility information, the GHFD will provide critical insights that ensure every person in every community knows where to go for care and ensure we are better prepared for future health emergencies.
It is not the first health assets mapping exercise, and efforts were made to map out and geolocate health facilities at regional, national or sub-national levels in some countries. Illustrative of other inspiring initiatives available is website www.healthsites.io, which crosses a database of health facilities with a mapping software.
However, the systematic approach together with the unrivaled granularity of the information mustered by WHO will offer an amplitude and depth that were never achieved before:
As a standardized, open, and central repository of health facility master lists, the aim of the GHFD is to strengthen the technical capacity of Ministries of Health at all levels to ensure the availability, accessibility, and quality of health facility information.
This includes the health facility name, location, and type while assigning each a unique code.
This project which will take a number of years to be rolled out and completely achieved, and more information can be accessed here.